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date: 10 April 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Adolescence is a prime time for substance use onset and escalation. Key developmental concepts regarding continuity, discontinuity, transitions, and tasks are identified. For many young people, substance use reflects a cascading effect whereby earlier difficulties contribute to substance use onset and escalation, which then cascades into other difficulties. In contrast, this cascading flow can get interrupted, resulting in ontogenetic discontinuity whereby substance use and other risky behaviors during adolescence are more the result of developmentally proximal individual and contextual characteristics than distal ones. This discontinuity can reflect either a temporary developmental disturbance or a turning point, a permanent change in course. Substance use is intertwined with the many developmental changes of adolescence, providing some developmentally functional experiences while posing serious risks to health and well-being that can reverberate into adulthood.

Keywords: adolescence, substance use, development, continuity, discontinuity

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